The Programme for Government includes a range of political reform measures a number of which are in my area of responsibility as Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. Many of the measures have already been implemented through legislation enacted in the last two years. Legislation enacted in 2011 provides for a reduction in the number of TDs, reduced spending limits at Presidential elections and time limits for the holding of bye elections. Legislation enacted in 2012 strengthens the political funding regime in Ireland and provides for the payment of state funding to political parties being conditional on parties having at least 30% women and 30% men candidates at the next general election. The Electoral (Amendment) (Dáil Constituencies) Act 2013 was signed into law in March and provides for 158 TDs to be elected to represent 40 constituencies in the next Dáil.
The Government legislation programme includes the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2013 which will provide for amendment of the European Parliament Elections Act 1997 to transpose directive 2013/1/EU which amends arrangements for EU citizens exercising their right to stand as a candidate in European Parliament elections in a Member State of which they are not nationals but in which they are residing; and for other amendments to the electoral acts relating to the date for additions to the postal voters register supplement list, the circulation of Referendum Bills to Post Offices, the register of electors in Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford and the review of European Parliament constituencies. Also in the legislation programme the Electoral (Amendment) (Referendum Spending and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, to be progressed later this year, will implement more commitments in the Programme for Government. Arising from the Action Programme for Effective Local Government I established a Local Electoral Area Boundary Committee in November 2012 to review and make recommendations on local electoral area boundaries in time for the 2014 local elections and my Department is providing administrative support to that committee.
Following these tasks, I will be addressing the Programme for Government commitment to establish an Electoral Commission to subsume functions of existing bodies and my Department. Establishment of an Electoral Commission will be a major body of work. Issues for consideration include international best practice, the Commission's structure and functions, who it reports to, its relationship with other bodies currently involved in electoral administration, and the approach to be followed in relation to the extensive legislation that will be required, as well as practical matters including staffing and funding arrangements.